Inside Story

Football in an age of austerity

Is Real Madrid's record signing of Gareth Bale for $132m a football feat or financial folly?

Last Modified: 03 Sep 2013 10:17
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Real Madrid have set another football transfer record, signing Gareth Bale from English Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur for $132m. That tops the previous record of $120m the Spanish club paid to Manchester United for Portuguese player Cristiano Ronaldo in 2009.

His unveiling to tens of thousands of fans at the Spanish club's Bernabeu stadium on Monday marked the end of months of negotiations. 

The 24-year-old told a news conference that he is looking forward to getting started: "I want to play my best football, I want to contribute and help the team. I don't think there is pressure in that sense. I think the most pressure comes from me, and I want to succeed and give 100 percent to play football for Real Madrid and try to help the team to win things."

Real Madrid turn over $600m a year roughly. They [have] got to continue growing the finances and their argument would be that the best way to do that is to attract the world's top players [and] to be the leading club in the world and [to] earn the revenues consequent for being in that position.

Simon Rives, a sports business analyst

But the record signing is raising questions about whether any club can justify paying that much money for a single player - especially in Spain, a nation in the grip of recession, where unemployment is hovering just below 30 percent.

Real Madrid are top of the league when it comes to the richest football clubs in the world. Forbes magazine puts their net worth at $3.4bn, ahead of Manchester United at $3.1bn.

Barcelona, Arsenal and Bayern Munich make up the top five, followed by AC Milan, Chelsea, Juventus, Manchester City and Liverpool.

Apart from the record fee paid for Bale, Real Madrid are expected to have to pay out almost as much again in wages.

Bale is rumoured to have agreed a deal worth more than $20m a year. That would be around $400,000 a week, $56,000 a day, $2,350 an hour or $39 for every minute of his six-year contract. It all adds up to a grand total of more than $120m.

So is big money and big business simply serving the superstars at the expense of the grassroots game? And was this a footballing feat or a financial folly? 

To discuss this, Inside Story, with presenter Shihab Rattansi, is joined by guests: Jonny Gould, a football journalist and broadcaster; Simon Rines, a sports business analyst; and Chris Eaton, the director of Sport Integrity at the International Centre for Sport Security.

"They made a point very quickly in the news conference in Spanish ... that Cristiano Ronaldo remains the main man at Real Madrid .... There is a little bit of egos knocking about in the Real Madrid dressing room ...."

Jonny Gould, a football journalist and broadcaster


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